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750,000 undiscovered species beneath the waves: study.

London, Oct 5 (ANI): In a decade long first census of marine life, it has been revealed that the world's oceans are teeming with far greater diversity of life than was previously thought.

The report has revealed that almost 250,000 have now been identified, while predicting there may be at least another 750,000 still waiting to be discovered beneath the waves, reports the Telegraph.

During the project scientists from around the world have identified more than 6,000 new species.

Yet despite this great diversity of life, the report has warned that humans are having a devastating impact on the numbers of many species through fishing and pollution.

"Marine scientists are at present unable to provide good estimates of the total number of species that flourish in the ocean," said the report.

"It will probably take at least another decade of the Census before we can defensibly estimate the total number of marine species.

"The deep-sea floor is no longer considered a desert, characterised by a paltry diversity of species.

"Over exploitation, habitat loss and pollution have depleted many fisheries that previously provided food and employment," it said.

More than 2,700 scientists have helped to compile the Census, with more than 540 expeditions to visit all of the world's oceans.

Among the new species discovered are Dinochelus ausubeli, the blind lobster with a long, spiny, pincer, which was found 300 metres below the surface in the Philippine Sea.

Sea spiders, a family of eight-legged creatures, which rarely grow bigger than a fingernail in UK waters, have been discovered up to nine inches (23cm) across in Antarctic seas.

The deep sea floor, previously thought to be an almost lifeless desert due to the huge pressure, pitch-black conditions and cold water found at depths greater than 6,000 feet (1.8km), has provided some of the biggest surprises.

Researchers have discovered huge communities of different species scattered across the ocean floor, living at the mouth of thermal vents and rifts that seep nutrients into the ocean.

Maria Baker, a researcher at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton said: "Life is much more widespread on the ocean floor than was thought.

"We still don't know how it spreads from vent to vent, but there could be stepping stones all over the place provided by food that falls from the water above."

Huw Griffiths, a marine scientist at the British Antarctic Survey said: "About 80 per cent of the species in the Antarctic live on the sea floor. It is incredibly rich and varied there.

"They are the sort of creatures that a palaeontologist might be more likely to recognise than a marine biologist because they seem to be communities we normally see in the fossil record than in modern oceans elsewhere." (ANI)

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Publication:Asian News International
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 5, 2010
Words:479
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